You are on page 1of 7

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No.

2, June 2015

Contrastive Analysis of the Segmental Phonemes of

English and Hausa Languages
Zubairu Malah and Sabariah Md. Rashid

to the success of ESL learning that they make expressions

AbstractThe objectives of this study are: (1) to identify the odd or even unintelligible especially when the listener does
similarities and differences between the segmental phonemes of not share an L1 with the speaker. To avoid this, ESL
English and Hausa languages, and (2) to predict learning learners must master the L2 sounds. Mastering the L2
difficulties among the Hausa ESL learners based on this sounds means having firm understanding of both the
comparison. Learners of English as a second language (L2) are phonetic and phonological features of the sounds. The worst
usually faced with difficulties largely contributed by the
features of their first languages (L1). The Hausa speakers in pitfalls are the distributions and realizations of the different
Nigeria learn English as a second language and features of the phonemes [3]. Sometimes, some phonemes in the ESL
Hausa language are heavily evident in their spoken English. learners L1 may be just allophones in English. For
Among the causes of difficulty in pronouncing English among example, while /l/ and / / are full phonemes in Russian, the
the Hausa speakers is the segmental deviation. This study two are both allophones of /l/ in English where using one
compares and contrasts the segmental phonemes of English
instead of the other results in oddness. Some allophones of
and Hausa. Behaviorists and Structural linguists in the 1950s
and 1960s founded the theoretical foundations of the the ESL learners L1 may also be phonemes in English. For
Contrastive Analysis (CA) and since then, this approach has instance, while /n/ and //, and /d/ and // are allophones in
been employed in the second language acquisition studies. In Japanese and Spanish respectively, all the four are full
the course of this study, the researchers employed desk phonemes in English. Therefore, Japanese and Spanish
research where data were drawn from archive and then learners of English are very likely to distribute the sounds
analyzed side-by-side revealing their similarities and wrongly, and this could lead to unintelligibility [4].
differences. The results of the study demonstrate that although
Hausa and English have some similar phonemes, the sounds do Because this segmental deviation, especially among
not behave the same way in the two languages, and Hausa has interlocutors that do not share an L1, jeopardizes the
47 phonemes when English has 44. Differences in the chances of success in oral communication, linguists feel
phonological features between the two languages result in obliged to ameliorate the situation. Segmental deviations
challenges faced by the Hausas in learning English. have been categorized into three: sound substitution or
conflation, consonant deletion and sound addition. This
Index TermsContrastive analysis, English, ESL learning,
happens, for example, when the L2 learner tries to simplify
Hausa, segmental deviation, segmental phoneme, L1
interference. the pronunciation of the L2 syllable that does not agree with
the syllable structure of the L1, or simply to facilitate the
pronunciation of difficult L2 sounds [3]. Robert Lado, a
I. INTRODUCTION renowned linguist, founded an approach to this problem. He
proposed that the two languages should be compared so that
Segmental and Supra-segmental variations are certainly
knowledge of the similarities and differences between the
inevitable in ESL and EFL learning. It is obvious that both
two would go a long way in providing solutions to the
segmental and supra-segmental properties of languages have
learning problems [4].
much to do with the intended meanings of speakers.
Taking into consideration the two languages in question,
However, we are more concerned with the segmental rather
Hausa and English are two disparate languages. Hausa
than the supra-segmental variations here. Why do ESL and
belongs to the Chadic family of languages of the Afro-
EFL learners face different challenges in their attempt to
asiatic phylum and is spoken by more than 35 million
achieve Standard English speech? Although linguists have
people in West Africa as a mother tongue, L2 and lingua
been at logger heads on different issues relating to language
franca [5]. In northern Nigeria, more than 30 million people
studies, they have unanimously agreed that the L1
speak the language as a mother tongue [6] and English as a
significantly influences the acquisition of the L2 phonology
second language. Thus, the Hausa speakers also learn ESL.
[1]. Therefore, at the segmental level, some pronunciation
Common to non-native speakers of English such as the
difficulties being faced by ESL learners are quite
Hausas, it is inevitable for the speakers L1 to interfere with
attributable to the phenomenon of negative transfer, where
their English accent. With this in mind, this study
sounds of L1 are erroneously transferred into the target
investigates the English pronunciation learning difficulties
language [2].
among the Hausa ESL learners. This is done by comparing
The threat of segmental transfer errors are so detrimental
and contrasting the segmental phonemes of the English and
Hausa languages, as well as also predicting possible areas of
learning difficulties.
Manuscript received January 24, 2015; revised June 16, 2015.
Zubairu Malah and Sabariah Md. Rashid are with University Putra A. Problem Statement
Malaysia, Malaysia (e-mail: Do all human languages have exactly the same sound

DOI: 10.7763/IJLLL.2015.V1.21 106

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2015

system, or do all shared sound phonemes behave exactly the Indonesian s is not realized as /z/.[11] discovered that like
same in all languages? What is the possibility of phonemic the English language, the Tiv language also has plosives like
negative transfer between languages, and how can this /p/, /b/, and /t/, but the Tiv plosives are not realized as
make expressions weird? Studies have revealed that aspirated or devoiced. The Japanese, according to [12],
languages may share some phonemes but there are mostly pronounce very as [beri] because the language does not
differences than similarities [7]. While English has 24 have the /v/ sound in its inventory. All these happen because
consonants, Cantonese has only 19, and it does not have any the segmental phonemes of these languages are either not
voiced plosives or fricatives. The Cantonese speaker would similar or simply behave differently in different
give /men/ for /mn/ because the // is missing in the environments.
Cantonese inventory [8]. The Indonesians would pronounce Therefore, it is essential that studies should heed the
[pa:st] without the aspiration as in the Indonesian word pronunciation difficulties among the Hausa ESL learners.
[pagi] because the Indonesian /p/ is not aspirated in all The Hausa ESL learners and users should be helped to attain
positions [9]. Problems of this nature are equally found in good command in English pronunciation. This study is
the speech of the Hausa learners of English, and this renders highly significant because its focus is to unravel the causes
some of their expressions completely of pronunciation difficulties at the segmental level faced by
awkward/unintelligible. the Hausa ESL learners and users.
However, investigations on the sounds of the Hausa
D. Theoretical Framework of the Study
language have for long been carried out, but the focus of
earlier studies has been to identify and describe the sounds This study draws its theoretical foundations from the
of the language and not to compare or contrast the sounds Contrastive Analysis theory founded by the Structural
with those of English. Therefore, a research of this nature is Linguists and Behaviourists of the 1950s and 1960s.
highly imperative in order to highlight areas of phonological Proponents of this theory include Lado [4] and Fries [13].
divergence between the two languages. This would help the These scholars were concerned with why some elements of
Hausa learners of English and researchers become aware of the L2 are more difficult to acquire than others. This
the trouble areas when it comes to learning to pronounce approach describes the systems or codes of languages by
English words correctly by the Hausas. Nonetheless, results comparing them with others and predicting areas of
of this study would facilitate researches and predict the difficulties so that the L2 learning difficulties are eased.
areas of English pronunciation difficulties for the Hausa Lado asserts that the L1 grammatical structure is transferred
speakers that are largely caused by the differences between into the L2 and this causes problems to the L2 learner. He
the English and Hausa segmental phonemes and the adds that although the similar structures would facilitate
transfer of the phonological features of their native learning (positive transfer), the dissimilar structures would
language. Teachers of English to Hausa speakers would also certainly inhibit learning (negative transfer/interference). To
find the findings of this research very helpful. Lado therefore, the best approach to handle the perils of
negative transfer (retroactive transfer) is to compare the
B. Objectives of the Study systems/codes of the L1 and L2. This is the best way to ease
1) To identify the similarities and differences between the the L2 learning difficulties.
segmental phonemes of English and Hausa languages On the other hand, it is well to understand that the CA is
to determine why the Hausa learners of English have significant to L2 learning in three major areas: linguistic
difficulty with some English sounds studies, language teaching and language assessment. It is
2) To predict accurately English pronunciation learning on this background that Friest claims that language teaching
difficulties likely to be faced by the Hausa ESL materials that are prepared based on the careful comparison
learners based on the comparison of the two sound of the scientific descriptions of L1 and L2 are the most
systems effective. Therefore, the proponents of CA believe that
C. Significance of the Study when the systems of both L1 and L2 are comparatively
described, areas that would facilitate learning or pose
It is understood that the intrusion by the features of the
difficulties to the L2 learner would be diagnosed. This
L1 bedevils the success of the L2 learners and users of the
would go a long way in helping the learners and teachers
ESL. This intrusion continues to render the English
produced by the L2 users as either weird or even overcome the challenges in L2 learning or teaching. This
unintelligible. This occurs in both spoken and written study employs the CA theory to examine the differences
usages. The L1 elements of a bilingual ESL learner or user between the segmental phonemes of English and Hausa
manifest in the grammar, phonology or lexis of the forms languages in order to gauge the adverse effects of the
produced by the bilingual. This study is concerned with the situation on the Hausa ESL learners.
phonological interference. By phonological interference is
meant the instances of transfer (negative transfer) that
inhibit effective acquisition and performance [1], [2] and II. REVIEW OF RELATED STUDIES
[10]. Different studies have focused on aspects of The English language assumes different statuses in
phonologies of English and other languages in attempts to different parts of the world and different linguistic
remedy the difficulties faced by the EFL and ESL learners communities. Besides the native speakers who use it as an
and users. For example, [9] discovered that the Indonesians L1, many people use it as a Second or Foreign language
always pronounce s as /s/ even when it comes after a [13]. However, the ESL and EFL users of English usually
voiced sound as in needs [needz]. This is because the face similar problems. These problems or difficulties are

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2015

mostly results of L1 intrusion in the L2 performance. The III. METHODOLOGY

L1 is the immediate noticeable source of error among the This study, like other contrastive analyses, is a secondary
ESL learners [10]. research. The study automatically lends itself to this
On this background, different studies have been approach because the segmental phonemes of English and
conducted and different findings have emerged in attempts Hausa languages have already been identified and described
to remedy the tough situation of L1 interference in L2 or by earlier researches. The focus here was to compare and
EFL learning. For example, [11] discovered that the dental critically analyze the two classes of phonemes and see how
fricatives // and // are missing in the Tiv language and the being familiar with the Hausa phonemes can affect learning
Tivs substitute // with /t/ and // with /d/. The vowels // the English phonemes. We compared the phonemic
and // are not in Tiv, therefore speakers of this language inventories of these languages and also their distributions
face difficulties in producing these sounds. They found that and realizations.
/l/ and /r/ are more of allophones in Tiv. Unlike in English Because there are many accents of the two languages [7],
where lice and rice are different words, lwam and [16]-[19] for this study, the researcher simply took the
rwan means the same in Tiv. Still, no Tiv word ends in Standard accents of the two languages English and
either /s/ or /z/, therefore speakers of this language do not Hausa. Therefore, although the English language has many
easily pronounce the English words ending in these sounds. dialects and accents, this study concentrated on the RP. This
This means that the Tivs needs thorough training to be able is because the RP is the accent being studied and used
to pronounce the English sounds not found in their worldwide, not just in the areas where English is used as a
language, otherwise their spoken English would be first language. The other accents of English speech like
something different from what they mean. Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Estuary, GA, Cockney, e.t.c were not
On the other hand, [9] conducted a study on Indonesian be the focused on in this study. Most publications on the
and English. He/she discovered that the b is mostly /p/ English phonemes are also based on RP and not any other
word-finally in Indonesian. The /v/ sound is not in the accent.
Indonesian inventory. So this means the Indonesians ESL On the other hand, this study also focused on the
learners should pay more heed to these sounds avoid wrong Standard Hausa (Daidaitacciyar Hausa (D.H.)) and not any
pronunciation. Reference [14] researched English and of the substandard accents like Katsinanci, Guddiranci,
Bangla sound systems. He discovered that while in English Zazzaganci, Sakkwatanci, Sakkwatanci etc. [17]. This was
the vowel length results in difference of meanings (as in because the Standard Hausa is the accent being studied and
sheep and ship), this feature is not of any importance in used on the media locally across West Africa or globally
Bangla. Both English and Bangla have diphthongs. But, as like in the VOA, BBC, RFI, DW, CRI etc. The accent also
Barman discovered, while in English the first of the pair of has sufficient literature and is the one used for theatrical
vowels is longer, in the Bangla pair vowels have equal performances in Hausa.
length. While English has 2 bilabial plosives (/p/ and /b/),
Bangla has 4: /p/, /p/, /b/ and /b/. The aspiration also
distinguishes meanings in Bangla, unlike in English. The IV. ENGLISH AND HAUSA SEGMENTAL PHONEMES
glottal fricative /h/, which is sometimes silent in English (as COMPARED
in hour and sigh), is always pronounced in Bangla.
The English language has a total of 44 phonemes (with
Therefore a lot of errors would be made by Bangla ESL
the exception of the glottal stop [] which is basically
learners especially in the areas highlighted like pronouncing
allophonic [7], [16] and [18]). All of these phonemes are
the English diphthongs pairs with equal length, giving short
produced using the pulmonic airstream air movement
vowel instead of long one, and vice versa, aspirating sounds
initiated by the lungs. There are 24 consonants and 20
that are not supposed to be aspirated, and also pronouncing vowels. Out of the 20 vowels, 12 are pure vowels and 8 are
the /h/ in all positions. diphthongs [7], [16], [18], [20]-[24] (shown in Tables I-II).
Having come closer to the topic at hand, we focus on the
study by [15]. Commenting on the phonological features of A. English Consonants
Nigerian English, Ekpe contends that these features affect On the other hand, the Hausa language has 47 segmental
the segmental sounds and supra-segmentals of the Nigerian phonemes, and the language uses both pulmonic and
ESL learners. The study discovered that most Nigerian glottalic airstreams to produce its sounds [22], [6] and [20].
speakers substitute /t/ for // and /d/ for //, therefore thin Therefore, while English has only pulmonic egressive
becomes [tin] and this [diz]. He said this happens because sounds, Hausa has both pulmonic egressive and glottalic
most Nigerian languages do not have the dental fricatives. egressive and ingressive sounds. The Hausa consonants are
Ekpe went further and identified 3 broad varieties of 34 in number while the vowels are 13. Out of the 13 vowels,
Nigerian spoken English: NNEV (Northern Nigeria English 10 are pure vowels (long and short), and the remaining 3 are
Variety), SNEV (Southern Nigeria English Variety) and diphthongs. Hausa consonants are articulated in two ways:
WNEV (Western Nigeria English Variety). The Hausa ESL short and long (sound segmental length). This happens
variety falls under the NNEV. when a consonant appears twice where one closes the
Therefore, as the studies reviewed above focused on the preceding syllable and the other opens the next as in
description of English and other languages, this study rarrashi (pacify), and tattauna (discuss) [19] and [21].
focuses on the description of English and Hausa segmental While English uses consonant clusters, Hausa uses abutting
phonemes. Furthermore, the study predicts areas of consonants where consonants belong to two syllables
challenges likely to be faced by the Hausa ESL learners. instead of one as in jimla (sentence) maharbi (hunter) and

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2015

sanda (cane). Some Hausa consonants have two levels of fyae (rape) where all /kj/, /gw/ and /j/ have secondary
articulation as in kyankyaso (cockroach) gwani (expert) and articulations [17], [19]-[23].


Bilabial Labio-Dental Dental Alveolar Post-Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio- velar Glottal
Plosive p t k []
b d g
Fricative f s h
v z
Affricate t
Nasal m n
Lateral l
Approximant r j w

and [16], these sound in Hausa are never devoiced in all

B. Hausa Consonants
positions. The English plosives are also used in clusters but
TABLE II: HAUSA D.H CONSONANTS, BASED ON [6], [17], [19], [21]-[23] Hausa does not use consonant clusters [21] and [22]. Hausa
Description Sound Description Sound
1 Bilabial 15 Alveolar nasal
uses its plosives as long consonants (tsayin sauti) as in
plosive b n words like babba (big), gaggawa (haste) and hadda
2 Alveolar t 16 Palatal nasal (memorize) where we have the long /bb/, /gg/ and /dd/
plosive d respectively. In the articulation of each of these consonants,
3 Velar plosive k 17 Velar nasal
g a longer duration of time is taken keeping the articulators
4 Labialized kw 18 Bilabial fricative tightly closed before an abrupt release [19]. English plosives
velar gw ___ do not behave like this.
On the other hand, while the English plosive are
5 Palatalized kj 19 Palatalized j
velar plosive gj bilabial ___ sometimes silent (as in comb, psyche and castle), the Hausa
Fricative plosives are always pronounced. The glottal stop [], which
6 Glottal 20 Alveolar fricative s is not a significant sound in English, is a full phoneme in
plosive z
7 Palatalized 21 Post-alveolar Hausa, with the orthographic shape []. The glottal stop
glottal j fricative (Hamza) in Hausa is also realized in words beginning with
8 Bilabial ___ 22 Glottal fricative h vowels because vowels do not operate word-initially in
9 Retroflex ___ 23 Post-alveolar t
Hausa as in [anjima] (later) and [umurni] (permission) [6]
implosive affricate d and [21]. Glottalization (Hamzantawa) accompanies words
10 Alveolar s 24 Alveolar lateral l ending with short vowels that are either pronounced in
ejective ___ isolation or as last words of structures as in [gobe]
11 Velar K 25 Alveolar Trill/roll r
ejective ___ (tomorrow) and [dazu] (moments ago). Words ending with
12 Labialized Kw 26 Retroflex flap diphthongs or long vowels are not glottalized as in ja
velar ___ [da:] (red) and kai [kai] (head) [22].
13 Palatalized Kj 27 Palatal j
Fricatives: the English fricative consonants / f v s z
velar ejective ___ approximant h / are 9 in number but Hausa has only 6 / j s z h /.
14 Bilabial 28 Labio velar Therefore, the sounds: / f v / are missing in the Hausa
nasal m approximant W inventory and the two languages share: / s z h /. From a
point of view, ESL learners whose L1 lacks // and // use
C. English and Hausa Consonants Compared /t/ and /d/ instead [7]. The English /s/, when used after a
Plosives: while the English language has a total of 6 voiced sound as in needs and begs, assumes voicing and is
plosives (the glottal stop / / being an allophone): / p b t d k therefore realized as /z/ [18]. But, the Hausa /s/ always
g /, Hausa language has 11: / b t d k g kw gw kj gj j /. maintains its voicelessness even after a voiced sound as in
However, the Hausa implosives // and // and the ejectives tilas (must) and tabbas (sure) [21]. While the English /z/ is
/s/, /k/, /kw/ and /ky/, which are glottalic sounds, can sometimes s in spelling (as in lose and nose ), the Hausa
also be described as plosive consonants because of the /z/ is always written as z. The // sound in English is
plosion as the articulators abruptly separate [16]. The represented by different combination of letters like sh
English language does not have any implosive or ejective. shop, ch chef, t militia, ss mission e.t.c, the Hausa
The plosive /p/ is missing in the Hausa inventory and // is always sh. The sound /h/ does not occur word-finally
English also lacks / kw gw kj gj and j /. These are some of after vowels in both the languages.
the Hausa consonants with two levels of articulation [21]. Affricates: both Hausa and English have two affricates
The two languages share the plosives / b t d k g/. only: /t d/. the sound / t/ occurs in English as t, ch or
On the distribution and realization of these plosives in the tch [25] as in lecture, chew, and watch but in Hausa it is
two languages, you discover that while /p b t d k g / can always occurs as c [21] as in cuta (disease) and caca
occur in all positions in English words [7], [16] and [18], (gambling). It occurs in all positions in English but it does
the sounds /b d g/ do not come word-finally in Hausa [17] not occur word-finally in Hausa. On the other hand, the
and [21]. In English, the sounds / b d g / lose their voicing sound /d/ is spelt only as j in Hausa but in English it
word-initially and finally (as in begin, dark and govern) [7] occurs as j, gg, dj, ch, de, d, and g as in just,

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2015

gaol, soldier, digest etc. in English, it occurs initially, them [7] and [16]. On the other hand, the Hausa has 13
medially and finally but in Hausa it occurs only initially and vowels 10 pure and 3 diphthongs. The pure vowels are
medially as in lauje (sickle) janye (withdraw). composed of 5 short: /i/, /e/, //, /a/, // and 5 long
Nasals: while English has 3 nasal sounds /m n /, the equivalents: /i:/, /e:/, /:/,/a:/, /u:/. Therefore, we have 5
Hausa language has 4: /m n /. The English nasals are pairs of two vowels where one is short and the other long.
spelt differently as mm, mn, nn, gn, kn, ng, nk The diphthongs include: /ai/, /au/, and /ui/ [5], [6], [17] and
etc respectively, while Hausa /m n/ occur as m and n but [21]. These vowels are displayed as follows:
// and // basically occur as allophones of /n/. // occurs
E. English and Hausa Vowels
word-finally as in ca (there) and na (here) or syllable-
finally before a velar sound as in bago (wall) and nika TABLE III: ENGLISH AND HAUSA VOWELS
(double) [21]. The // is a palatalized nasal and is always English Hausa
realized in the combination ny as in hanya (road) and Pure vowels : Pure vowels:
kunya (shyness). /m/ and /n/ can both occur in all positions /i:/, /i/, /e/, //, /a:/, //, / :/, //, /i:/, /i/, /e:/, /e/, /:/, //, /a:/, /a/,
in English but in Hausa /n/ becomes // word-finally. // //, /:/, //, /u:/ /u:/,//
does not occur in initial position in both, and // in Hausa is Diphthongs: Diphthongs:
restricted to medial position. Nasal sounds are all voiced but /ei/, /ai/, /i/, /i/,/e/, /u/, /au/, /ai/, /au/, /ui/
when they follow /s/ in initial cluster in English they /u/
become devoiced as in snail and smuggle [24]. However,
because Hausa has no consonant clusters, its nasals are Pure Vowels: while the pure vowels of English are spelt
always voiced and they do not occur as syllabic [22] like in differently ( e.g. /i/ is spelt i, a, e as in sit, private and
English cotton and column. wicked, /a:/ is spelt a, al, ear as in father, palm and
Laterals: the lateral sound in both English and Hausa is heart ), the Hausa pure vowels always have unique spelling
the /l/. This sound occurs in English as either l or ll but ( e.g. /a/ is spelt a as in tafiya (walking) and mace
Hausa always has it as l. in English, when /l/ occurs before (woman)). But the Hausa long and short vowels are spelt
a vowel or /j/ as in look, live or value, it is clear [l]; and alike, and it is only the phonetic realizations of the vowels
when it occurs after a vowel as in kneel, full or skill, or that distinguish the meanings of words [21] and [22]. For
before another consonant as in feels and deals, it is dark []. example, [ga:i] (hair) and [gai:] (roast) are both spelt
The /l/ is devoiced after /p/ or /k/ as in please, people, clean gashi; [da:ka] (female donkey) and [daka:] (bag) are
and close [7], [16] and [24]. The Hausa language does not both spelt jaka. Words are spelt exactly the the same but
use consonant clusters and the /l/ in Hausa is fully voiced in pronounced differently [17]. The vowels: //, //, //, /:/
all positions [21] and [22]. Finally, while the English /l/ is are missing in the Hausa vowel system but they are used in
sometimes silent as in palm, calf and should, the Hausa /l/ is English and these are among the most difficult to learners
always pronounced. whose L1 is not English [7] (shown in Table III).
Approximants: the English language has three While vowels occur in all positions in English [16], no
approximants but Hausa has only two. The English vowel operates initially in Hausa. Vowels in Hausa can only
approximants include: /r j w/, while the Hausa occur medially and finally. A word may seemingly begin
approximants are /j w /. The Approximants, Trill/roll and with a vowel but because of the Hausa canonical restriction
Flap: the English RP does not have any Trill or Flap but the that all syllables must have onsets, a glottal stop is realized
Hausa language uses the trill /r/ and the Flap //. The before the vowel as in [amarja] (bride) and [ilmi]
English /r/, which is a post-alveolar approximant, contrasts (education) which are spelt amarya and ilmi respectively.
with the Hausa /r/, which is an alveolar trill/roll. The Hausa However, unless for long vowels and diphthongs, vowels
// is unique and is not found in English. The Hausa /r/ is syllable-finally are also glottalized [6] and [21]. While in
articulated in two ways /r/ and //, and like the other ESL English a long vowel or diphthong can occur as the nucleus
users, the Hausas too will face problem in not pronouncing of closed syllables as in feed, taught, laugh, gate and dine;
the sound [16]. This is because while in English it occurs in Hausa neither a long vowel nor a diphthong occurs as
only before vowels, in Hausa it also appears after vowels nucleus of closed syllable. Even when a syllable originally
and it is always pronounced. But the English /j/ and /w/ are has a long vowel or diphthong as its nucleus, the moment it
similar to those in Hausa. In Hausa, the two sounds are is added a suffix it automatically becomes a short one as in
restricted to onset position as in yabo (praise) and baya [an] (the son), [jar] (the daughter) and [man] (the oil)
(back), wando (trousers) wasu (some). The two can also which were originally [a:] (son), [ja:] (daughter) and [mai]
come as coda elements of medial geminate glide as in (oil) respectively [21] and [22]. Contrastively, short vowels,
tarbiyya (discipline) dawwama (eternity) [6] and [22]. long vowels and even diphthongs can all play the nucleic
role in open syllables. Although Hausa syllables ending
D. English and Hausa Vowels Compared with short vowels word finally or in isolation are
The English language has a total of 20 vowels. Out of glottalized, those with long vowels or diphthongs are not.
these, 12 are pure vowels and eight are diphthongs. The This does not happen in English because vowels shorten
English 12 pure vowels comprise of 7 short vowels: /i/, /e/, only before voiceless consonants but they lengthen before
//,//, //, //, // and 5 long vowels: /i:/, /a:/, /:/, /:/, /u:/. voiced ones [7]. The phonetic realizations of Hausa short
The vowel system of English is so complex that it is among vowels medially vary in accordance with the surrounding
the less common among languages and it is absolutely consonantal and vocalic environments. For example, /u/ is
predictable that ESL learners will have trouble in learning anticipatorily assimilated to /i/ when it precedes a syllable

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2015

with /i/ as the nucleus (e.g. buki biki) (celebration), or diphthong vowels can operate as inucleus in English closed
when it precedes the /j/ sound (e.g. wuya wiya) (neck) syllables, only short vowels occur as nucleus in Hausa
vowels that can precede /j/ and /w/ are only /i/ and /u/ [6]. closed syllables.
Diphthongs: this is an area of great differences between Studies of this nature have always been carried out in
the English and Hausa sound system. While the English order to diagnose the similarities and differences between
language has 8 diphthongs: /ei/, /ai/, /i/, /i/,/e/, /u/, /au/, phonemes of languages so that areas of possible difficulties
/u/ [7], [16] and [18], Hausa language has only 3: /ai/, /au/ are predicted especially in the ESL/EFL learning. This helps
and /ui/ [6], [17] and [21]. It can be seen that only two: /au/ also in the areas of material development and language
and /ai/ are similar in the two languages. The English assessment. For example, [8] compared English and
diphthongs usually pose problems to the ESL learners. Cantonese, and they predicted different phonological
These learners usually produce pure vowels when differences faced by the Cantonese ESL learners. [26] was a
diphthongs are expected [16]. For example, they will use // comparison between Kurdish and English and [12]
instead of /u/ or /e/ instead of /ei/ so that go is [g] and compared Japanese and English. All of these studies
gate is [get] [7]. In English, diphthongs are spelt differently explored the phonemic systems of the languages and
(e.g. /i/ toy, coin and buoy; /ai/ dine, try, tie and night e.t.c.) predicted different pitfalls for the ESL/EFL learners.
[25], but Hausa diphthongs are always spelt as they are Predictions
pronounced (e.g. /ui/ kwuii (side), /au/ farauta (hunting) Based on the findings of this study, the following areas of
and /ai/ saida (sell) etc) [19] and [22]. difficulties among the Hausa ESL learners are hereby
In pronouncing the English diphthongs, the first vowel predicted:
should be longer than the second, and this is also a problem 1) The Hausa ESL learners would have difficulty
to L2 learners because they mostly give equal length to both pronouncing all the consonants / p f v /. The
the elements and makes their speech odd [7]. Respect of Hausa speakers are likely to pronounce /p/ and /f/ as
Hausa ESL learners, this is attributable to the fact that the // so that pen is [en] and friend is [ren]. They are
diphthongs in Hausa are pronounced with equal length. likely to have /v/as /b/, // as /t/, // as /d/, and // as
While in English a diphthong can occur as a nucleus in both /d/.
open and closed syllables (as in twilight, late, out and pay), 2) Because the English vowels / //, //, //, /:/ /i/,/e/,
no diphthong performs nucleic function in Hausa closed /u/, /u/ are not similar to those in Hausa, therefore
syllables. Because no vowel occurs syllable-initially in the Hausa ESL learners would find them hard to learn.
Hausa, diphthongs cannot begin Hausa words but English The vowels // and // are likely to be heard as /a/,
has words like isle, oil, owl e.t.c which begin with the while // and /:/ as /e/, /i/ as /ai/, /e/ as /ea/, /u/ as
diphthongs: /ai/, /i/ and /au/ respectively. /ua/, and /u/ as // respectively. They will always
attempt to use native phonemes instead of English
V. DISCUSSION 3) The Hausa ESL learners will glottalize any vowel
We have explored the English and Hausa segmental syllable-initially or any short vowel syllable-finally in
phonemes and we have understood that although the isolated or last words.
languages share some similar phonemes, there have been 4) Because the Hausa phonemes are always pronounced,
significant differences between their phonemic systems. the Hausa ESL learners would have difficulty in
While English has 44 phonemes, Hausa has 47. And, when leaving a letter(s) unpronounced.
all English phonemes are produced with the pulmonic 5) The Hausa ESL learners would mistake the
airstream, Hausa phonemes are produced using both combination of letters like ll, mm, tt, e.t.c as long
pulmonic and glottalic airstreams. To begin with, the consonants that should be longer than when single
English language has a total of 24 consonants and Hausa letters are used.
language has a total of 34. Although 18 of the English 6) Even after a voiced sound, the Hausa ESL learners
consonants are similar to Hausa consonants, they have would pronounce d as /d/ instead of /t/ especially
different allophonic variations in the two languages. While when regular verbs are in past form. This is because
English uses consonant clusters, Hausa uses long the Hausa /d/ is never devoiced.
consonants and abutting consonants. Unlike English where 7) The Hausa ESL learners are most likely to pronounce
some sounds are silent, the Hausa consonants are always the English diphthongs wrongly, especially the ones
pronounced and a syllable must always begin with a not similar to those in Hausa. Learners are likely to use
consonant. pure vowels instead of diphthongs or give the two
On the other hand, a careful study of the vowel systems sounds equal length.
of the two languages also revealed that great deal of
differences occurs between them. In the first place, English ACKNOWLEDGMENT
has a total of 20 vowels but Hausa has only 13. The vowels Zubairu Malah appreciates the untiring guidance and
of each language can be classed into two: pure vowels and support from Dr. Sabariah Bt. Md. Rashid, the H.O.D.
diphthongs, where English has 12 pure vowels and 3 English, UPM, in writing this paper. Profound appreciations
diphthongs. While each English vowel is spelt in different also go to Prof. Ahmed Gimba and Dr. Mohd Meleh, of
ways, the Hausa vowels always have unique orthographic UNIMAID, and Dr. Cliffort Irikefe Gbenyorong, of Yobe
shape. The Hausa long and short vowels are spelt alike and State University Damaturu, Nigeria.
vowel length has semantic impact. While all short, long and

International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2015

REFERENCES [21] M. A. Z. Sani, An Introductory Phonology of Hausa, Kano:

Benchmark Publishers Ltd., 2005, ch. 1-4.
[1] F. R. Eckman, From Phonetic Differences to Constraint Rankings, [22] M. A. Z. Sani, Gamayyar Tasrifi Da Tsarin Sautin Hausa, Zaria:
Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin, 2004, pp. 515-530. Ahmadu Bello University Press, 2011, pp. 1-49.
[2] H. D. Brown, Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, 6th ed. [23] R. M. Zarruk, Shimfidar Ilmin Harsuna a Hausa: Furuci, Zaria:
New York: Pearson Education, 2014, ch. 9, pp. 242-276. ABU Press, 1996, pp. 1-27.
[3] J. Jenkins, The Phonology of English as an International Language, [24] C. Beverley and M. M. Inger, Practical Phonetics and Phonology,
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 33-39. New York: Routledge Publishers, 2008, pp. 79-105.
[4] R. Lado, Linguistics Across Cultures, Ann Arbor: University of [25] J. Demola, Phonology of English, Lagos: National Open University
Michigan, 1957, pp. 1-20. of Nigeria, 2010, pp. 19-111.
[5] P. Newman, The Hausa Language: An Encyclopedic Reference [26] R. Massoud. (September 2011). A phonological contrastive analysis
Grammar, New Haren: Yale University Press, 2000, pp. 1-10. of Kurdish and English. IJEL. [Online]. pp. 73-82. Available:
[6] P. J. Jaggar, Hausa, Armsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamin http://www.doi:10.5539/ijel.vln2p73
Publishing Com., 2001, ch. 2.
[7] A. Cruttenden, Gimsons Pronunciation of English, 6th ed. London:
Arnold International Publishers, 2001, pp. 91-216. Zubairu Malah was born in Gashua, Yobe State of
[8] Y. W. A. Chan and L. I. David. (April 2010). English and Cantonese Nigeria, on the December 25, 1980. After his primary
phonology in contrast: Explaining Cantonese ESL learners English and secondary education, Zubairu obtained an NCE
phonological problems. Language, Culture and Curriculum. [Online]. in English/Hausa (at distinction level) from the
13(1). pp. 67-85. Available: College of Education Gashua (COEGA) in 2001. He furthered his career by earning a B.A. English
[9] A. Baso. (September 2013). A comparative analysis between English language degree (second class, upper division) from
and Indonesian phonological system. IJELE. [Online]. Available: the University of Maiduguri Nigeria, in 2007. Zubairu is currently pursuing M.A. degree in English
[10] G. Yule, The Study of Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University language at Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Press, 2007, ch. 1-3. He has been a lecturer at Yobe State University, Damaturu since 2011;
[11] D. T. Waya and S. T. Kwambehar. (January 2014). A phonetic but before his appointment with the University, Zubairu had lectured
contrastive analysis of Tiv and English segmentals. IJSS. [Online]. English at the Nigerian Teachers Institute (NTI) center in Damaturu. He
pp. 12-14. Available: was also a teacher of English and Hausa languages in both primary and secondary schools within and outside Yobe State since 2001. His areas of
ehar&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp= research interest include contact linguistics, discourse analysis, phonetics
[12] K. Ohata. (September 2004). Phonological differences between and phonology, literature and pragmatics.
Japanese and English: Several potentially problematic areas of Mr. Malah has been a member of the Nigerian Academic Staff Union of
pronunciation for Japanese ESL/EFL learners. AEJ. [Online]. pp. 1- Universities (ASUU). He has also been a member of the English Language
19. Available: Teachers Association of Nigeria (ELTAN). Still a proudly registered teacher! He holds two outstanding awards: Father Dalys Award for the
&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp= Best Graduating Student of English, UNIMAID 2007; and also COEGA
[13] J. Lyons, Language and Linguistics, Cambridge: Cambridge Award for the Best Graduating Student of English/Hausa, 2001. His latest
University Press, 2009, ch. 2-5. publication was on English-Malay Loanblends, and is currently working on
[14] B. Barman. (August 2010). A contrastive analysis of English and cohesion/ coherence and textualilty in texts.
Bangla phonemics. DUJL. [Online]. pp. 19-42. Available:
+and+bangla+&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp= Sabariah Md. Rashid is a senior lecturer and the
[15] M. B. Ekpe, The English Language in Nigeria, Lagos: National Open current head of the Department of English, Faculty of
University of Nigeria, 2010, pp. 61-90. Modern Languages and Communication, University
[16] P. Roach, English Phonetics and Phonology, 3rd ed. Cambridge: Putra Malaysia. She holds a Ph.D. degree in English
Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 19-80. studies from University of Kabangsan Malaysia,
[17] M. A. Z. Sani, Siffofin Daidaitacciyar Hausa, Kano: Benchmark 2011 with focus on the analysis of metaphorical
Publishers Ltd, 2009, pp. 6-22. expressions using the cognitive semantics
[18] A. McMahon, An Introduction to English Phonology, Edinburgh: framework. Before she received her M.Phil degree in
Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2002, pp. 12-91. 1999 from University of Reading, UK, she had
[19] M. A. Z. Sani, Maraka Yanki A Tsarin Sautin Hausa, Zaria: Ahmadu obtained an M.A. degree in applied linguistics from the same university in
Bello University Press, 2013, pp. 1-87. 1993. Her B.A. degree in language studies was obtained in 1986 from
[20] P. Ladefoged, A Course in Phonetics, Oxford: Blackwell, 2013, ch. University of Essex, UK. She carries out researches and publishes mainly
1-3. in the areas of applied linguistics, language testing, and language and
meaning, in particular, in cognitive semantics.